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By Ryan Dennis

The Federal Milk Marketing Improvement Act, also known as S1645 and the Specter-Casey Bill, expired on the floor of the U.S. Senate on the last days of 2010.  Introduced by Pennsylvania Democrat Arlen Specter and read twice on August 6th, 2009, the dairy proposal has run its allotment of two years after having been referred to the Committee of Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

Bill S1645 needs to be reintroduced to Congress to remain a viable dairy reform proposal.

Its supporters are anxiously waiting for it to be reintroduced.

Bill S1645 hoped to “ amend the Agricultural Adjustment Act to require the Secretary of Agriculture to determine the price of all milk used for manufactured purposes, which shall be classified as Class II milk, by using the national average cost of production, and for other purposes” (Support Bill S1645 Federal Milk Marketing Act).  Of the propositions currently discussed and debated upon by the dairy community in the United States, The Federal Milk Marketing Improvement Act offered the most direct positive influence on farmgate prices received by farmers.  By guaranteeing a healthy Class II price (in a four class system) that is a function of the farmer’s cost of production, the plan sought to stabilise often-volatile returns and ensure producers receive a profit regardless of market and outside conditions.  Pennsylvania farmers stood by their senator’s bill, most of whom run small or mid-size operations.

If press in agricultural journals is any indication of public opinion, the “Foundation of the Future” plan presently appears be a frontrunner in dairy politics, fuelled by efforts and funding of its founder, the National Milk Producer’s Federation.  Foundation for the Future involves an insurance scheme in which all farmers would receive a very basic guarantee against significantly low prices, with the opportunity to purchase additional protection.  Those opposing Foundation of the Future fear that it will only favour the larger farms who have the means to purchase the extra insurance, and that it does little to alleviate the conditions that create loss margins.  Holstein Association USA has also created a proposal that seeks to slow herd expansion in the US with a quota system.

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